Hummingbirds In Britain
by Shaye

They were little twinkly, darting things that made her think of lightning bugs she'd read about in books. Only with wings that moved as fast as a hummingbird. She'd seen hummingbirds when on holiday with relatives in Canada, and oh, they were beautiful creatures. Mum was moving anxiously up the street pushing the baby's pram, and would be cross if she dared linger to catch a glimpse of the lights picked out in the bushes of the park.

One of them darted closer, and Petunia stared, transfixed, as a tiny body came into view.

Like Tinkerbell, only there was no Peter, and she was certainly no Wendy.

Certainly not hummingbirds or lightning bugs. There was really only one thing they could be.

"Mum, look!" Pet didn't notice her mother stop and look behind her in alarm. "Faeries!" She pointed at the little sparkling creature and gazed up at it, delight and awe suffusing her face.

Her arm was suddenly wrenched farther up the sidewalk, and Petunia, of necessity, followed.

"Pet, don't be so silly. Mummy doesn't have time for that." Mum sounded nothing so much as tired, and she jerked the pram forward so hard that Lily awoke and began to squall. "Oh," Mum sighed, "look what you've done now, Pet."

She reached down to gather Lily to her breast, pulling the pram backwards behind her. Mum stopped abruptly and spoke sharply. "Come on now, Pet. Walk in front of Lily and me, then."

They finally reached home, where it was warm and dry and cheerful, just in time for bed. Daddy looked up from his newspaper when they clattered in. "What's this? I didn't hear the car pull up."

Mum glared. "Of course not. It broke down, didn't it? Had to drag my two baby girls home in the dark, didn't I?"

"Good heavens! Why didn't you call?"

"All the call-boxes were broken. All the ones I saw, anyhow." Lily'd stopped screaming by then, thank goodness. Mum laid her in her bassinet and she went immediately, peacefully to sleep. "Pet thinks she saw faeries. Almost got herself lost, that one."

Daddy grinned down at her. "Faeries, was it? I'm sure you did, darling."

"But - Mum, Daddy..." Petunia trailed off, struck by the memory of those enchanting lights, that serene, fantastically tiny smile, the wingbeats that created a small breeze on her upturned face. "They were real... I know it..." she murmured, heading off to wash up for the night.


It was six months before she saw anything half so wonderful again. Lily was walking by that time, and Mum was absolutely frantic, constantly chasing after the baby trying to keep her from hurting herself. It might be funny, if Petunia didn't feel so very lonely.

The garden had all gone to seed and the flowers were wilted and dying. Mum hadn't the time to water anything, and they hadn't had fresh flowers since the lilacs that spring.

Petunia often wondered why she'd been named for such an ugly, plain flower, while Lily got to have the name of a tall and elegant one. Roses, now. Petunia sometimes pretended her name was Rose, only they were so few this summer. Most of the petals had fallen off early from neglect, and there were nothing but hips left on most of the bushes. There were a few late roses in the corner, half in sun and half in shadow, that Petunia had taken upon herself to water every day from her own small watering can.

But even these roses were beginning to wilt in the still, heavy heat, and that meant summer would soon be fading away. Petunia stood over the rose bushes with the wilty flowers and wept for them. "Ohhhhh, I wish I wish I wish..." she thought, screwing up her face and squeezing her eyes shut tight.

And when she opened them again, the roses were as fresh and full as if they'd just bloomed on a dewy June morning. Petunia gasped and ran into the house.

"Mum! Mum, come look! I fixed the roses!"

"Not now, Petunia, I'm changing Lily!" Mum snapped. "Don't you want to help Mummy out at all?"

"Yes, Mum," Petunia said sullenly. She wandered back out to the garden to take refuge in her newly-bloomed roses.

But they were greyish and wilting again, and no amount of wishing and crying made them any better.


Lily had narrowly escaped a serious accident by landing softly in a bed of grass when she fell out the bay window, rather than onto the hard garden walk.

Or at least, that's what Mum said, though Pet could have sworn she'd seen Lily bounce right off the garden walk and make soft, pleasant landing in the grass bed.

Either way, Lily had thought it great fun and wanted to do it again and again. But Mum and Daddy had a party for Lily instead, because she'd survived getting badly hurt and because she'd said her first word, "Again!" while clapping and begging to be tossed out the window a second time.

For her part, Petunia would have been only too glad.

All the aunties and uncles were there, but they were too busy trying to amuse Lily so she'd clap and shout "'ginn, 'ginn!" in that adorable way of hers.

Once you started using full sentences, they never gave you parties for talking anymore. Petunia found it very unfair. She was creeping around the autumn garden instead, when she could have sworn she saw tiny, ugly people darting around the underbrush, planting weeds. Gnomes, she thought suddenly. They must be gnomes. They left tiny footprints in the soft garden earth.

She opened her mouth to shout, and to run inside, so she could show everyone her new discovery. But she paused a moment, looking back at the living room window, where everyone was happily watching for the latest cute thing Lily might do.

And when Petunia looked back, she couldn't even see the tiny footprints in the dirt.


"Pet! Pet, look!" Lily was excited, her voice pitched high as she tugged on Petunia's sleeve and dragged her farther into the garden. "Look!"

Petunia glanced in the direction Lily was gesturing so wildly. There was nothing there. "What am I looking at?"

"Don't you see them? There are faeries! In our own garden!"

But there was nothing of the sort. Petunia thought she caught a momentary flash of wings in the sun, diving back into the foliage, but that was surely nothing. "Don't be stupid," she sneered. "It was just a hummingbird."

Suddenly Lily gasped. "No, you're wrong, Pet. Oh, they're just lovely!" Her face was turned upward in wonder and adoration.

And Petunia followed her gaze, as nearly as she could. There was nothing there at all.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix